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Ath

The meaning of «ath»

Ath (French pronunciation: ​[at]; Dutch: Aat, Dutch pronunciation: [aːt] (listen); Picard: Ât; Walloon: Ate) is a city and municipality of Wallonia located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium.

The municipality consists of the following districts: Arbre, Ath, Bouvignies, Ghislenghien, Gibecq, Houtaing, Irchonwelz, Isières, Lanquesaint, Ligne, Maffle, Mainvault, Meslin-l'Évêque, Moulbaix, Ormeignies, Ostiches, Rebaix, Villers-Notre-Dame, and Villers-Saint-Amand.

Ath is known as the "City of Giants" after the Ducasse d'Ath festivities which take place every year on the fourth weekend in August. Huge figures representing Goliath, Samson, and other allegoric figures are paraded through the streets, and Goliath's wedding and his famous fight with David are re-enacted.

Ath is the point of origin of the river Dender from the merger of its Eastern and Western branches.

Archeological records show the existence of several Gallo-Roman settlements in the Ath area. The origin of the city of Ath, however, dates from around 1160, when Count Baudouin IV of Hainaut, bought some territory from his liegeman, Gilles de Trazegnies. A few years later, Baldwin built the Burbant Tower – which can still be seen today – to protect his new acquisition. The new city was soon given privileges and its newly built (1325) market hall on the Grand-Place began to attract residents.

Ath was the setting of the "Peace of Ath", signed on June 4, 1357, to end the question of the Brabant succession.[2] By then, the weekly Ath market, which took place – and still takes place – on Thursdays, had started attracting sellers from a much larger region. The production of linen, cloth, hide, and luxury items such as gold ware, cabinets, and sculptures was growing fast. The population growth necessitated the building of a second wall, which was completed at the end of the 14th century. In 1416, the city built a school for the study of Latin, which Justus Lipsius attended. The city counted then about 5,000 people.

In 1667, Ath was conquered in a single day by the army of Louis XIV and became the first French city of the Spanish Netherlands. Soon after, Vauban built new fortifications, which included eight bastions. The city suffered again at the hands of the French army in 1745. At the end of the 18th century, Ath counted about 7,300 inhabitants but the population count decreased in the first half of the 19th century.

In 1816, two military engineering surveys concluded that Ath defences should be improved, the British survey recommended a garrison of 3,000 troops and the building cost would be £143,599. The Dutch wished to spend an additional £266,000. The Duke of Wellington agreed to the Dutch plan. The funding was paid for by England (30%), Holland (30%) and by French war reparations (40%).[3]: 388  In 1824, the Dutch under King William I, built the Féron Fort, and the city once more gained strategic value.

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